The fictional love story of Titanic (1997) certainly isn’t as universally riveting as its fans may think. This writer nearly fell asleep during one of many televised screenings. 

But it is true that the human interest stories have helped make Titanic’s doomed voyage so unforgettable, even almost a century later. One of the most poignant accounts discussed the RMS Titanic Captain Edward J Smith: He was last seen in the bridge area, with no visible attempt made to save himself from the ship’s sinking. 

This October, the blockbuster exhibition hits Singapore shores, with the passengers’ harrowing experiences and personal artifacts as the heart of this exhibition.


Left:The porthole and a wall of passenger photos.
Right: A model of the ship wreck at Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition

Opening today at the ArtScience Museum, Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition tracks the history of the RMS Titanic from its construction to its fatal first journey.

Museum director Tom Zaller describes the Singapore exhibition as “the biggest ever” Titanic exhibition held thus far. Having toured many international cities, the exhibition was first staged at Paris in 1987. It makes its timely debut in Singapore: The historic sinking of Titanic will also mark its 100th anniversary in April next year.


See detailed recreations of rooms, corridors and communal areas on the Titanic.
Above: The third-class cabin corridors and room

The Titanic exhibition takes pride in its interactive visitor experience. To immerse visitors into the history of the RMS Titanic, this exhibition boasts unique exhibits that will make your trek through the ArtScience Museum galleries a memorable one.

So how does this Singapore exhibition fare, when it comes to interactivity? We share five key features to look forward to:


(L-R): Get a Titanic boarding pass at the start of the exhibition and track the journey of your passenger on board and after the sinking

1. GET YOUR VERY OWN TITANIC BOARDING PASS
At the start of the exhibition, each visitor will be given a replica boarding pass, with the name and personal details of an actual passenger on board the historic ship. Check the name of your passenger against the “Memorial Wall” at the end of the exhibition to find out if that passenger survived the sinking of the Titanic.

Verdict: Yes, it is a tad morbid but we’re all for that memorable exhibition souvenir. Hold out to the end of the exhibition and resist the temptation to Google your passenger’s name on your phone.


(L-R): The first-class cabin corridors and room.
A first-class ticket cost the equivalent of USD$60,000 (almost S$74,514) in present day context

2. WALK THROUGH THE ‘INTERIORS’ OF THE TITANIC
See meticulous recreations of the first-class and third-class cabins and the communal areas of the ship.

Recreated Titanic staircase at the ArtScience Museum, SingaporeThe full-scale, 27-foot high (about 8.23 metres) grand staircase is perfect for Titanic movie fans and photo addicts. Pose for a studio shot and collect your photo later at the giftshop after your tour around the exhibition.

Verdict: It’s easy to predict that the staircase (as seen on the right) will be the exhibition highlight for many visitors.

If you’re not keen on photos but you still insist on your Jack-and-Rose moment, stand by the replica ship railings in the next section and stare at the sparkly faux ‘stars’ with your partner. It’s likely to be more atmospheric than the crowded staircase section too.


3. FEEL THE FREEZING COLD WATERS AT THE TIME OF THE SINKING

Our enthusiastic guide insisted that we should keep our palms on the cold steel for a few minutes to feel the unbearable temperature that the drowning passengers had experienced. He continued soberly to share that “after 40 minutes, no sound was heard from the waters”.

For your information, the wall has a temperature of 0 degrees Celsius so it’s not that wise to leave your hand on for too long…


(L-R): The cold steel wall and guests at the same exhibit, at a past exhibition

Verdict: You won’t be soaked in such cold waters but this exhibit literally makes its point felt. The frosted steel wall also looks rather eerie with the hand-prints of other visitors; the exhibit gets our vote for its surprisingly simple and effective sensory arrangement.


Left: Wall of dining utensils, plates and tiles; all recovered from the wreck.
Right: A recovered leather luggage and its almost-intact contents.

4. SEE ACTUAL TITANIC ARTIFACTS
Separate fact from fiction and find out more about the Titanic, far beyond that James Cameron film. These objects have been retrieved from the depths of Titanic’s final resting spot, 3,800 metres below ocean level.

Museum director Tom Zaller has personally been on one of these artifact dives. Visitors can find out more about the recovery and conservation of this artifacts in the “Discovery Gallery” at the end of the exhibition.

Verdict: Replicas of rooms may be fun to explore but they can’t do without the authentic artifacts; these give the exhibition its historical gravity and authenticity. Cased in glass boxes, these objects are appropriately situated in spaces that simulate their original purposes. Silver and other service pieces of instance, are presented on white linen tables at the recreated Verandah Cafe.


Historical photos of the Titanic (L-R): From its bow construction, the day it set sail and the lifeboats that some passengers were able to escape on. All images: Premier Exhibition, Inc.

5. VIEW SINGAPORE CONNECTIONS TO THE TITANIC SINKING
“Singapore 1912”: A gallery specific to Singapore is added to the Titanic exhibition at the ArtScience Museum. Singapore news articles on the Titanic sinking and other archaeological finds made during that period will be on display.

As the “Singapore 1912” section was not ready in time for the media preview, we were unable to view the actual exhibits. Aside from the news articles, some of these Singapore connections may sound tenuous. Still, the effort’s laudable; there’s no harm in learning more about Singapore history at this exhibition. If you’ve never heard of Pulau Saigon, you do now. Items excavated from this “lost” island of the Singapore River will be exhibited at this section.

Admission prices to the Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition start at $20 for Singapore residents; ticket discounts are available for senior citizens, children under 12 and OCBC Bank cardmembers. The exhibition runs from October 29, 2011 to April 29, 2012, 10am to 10pm daily at the ArtScience Museum. Visit the ArtScience Museum website for more information.